The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Three Stars

6186357Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Synopsis: Once a month without fail a new boy arrives in the maze. They remember nothing of their previous lives.

These boys have been trying to solve the maze for two years. No one has succeeded. Boys who don’t return to the glade before dark never survive. Strange monsters are prepared to attack at any moment, but life goes on. The boys have settled into their lives in the maze not realizing that everything is about to change.

When Thomas arrived in the maze nothing seems out of the ordinary. Thomas’s arrival was normal, expected, but the arrival the next morning is not. She’s a girl, and she’s triggered The Ending– whatever that means. In the coming days one thing becomes clear, if the boys of the maze don’t find a way out of the maze all of them will die.

Review: I am conflicted. I like the premise for this book, but I struggled to finish it.

The main world-building problem I had with getting into this book was connecting with Thomas as a character. It is written in third person, which is not a bad thing, there are plenty of books written in third person I love, but sometimes it makes it more difficult to connect to the characters.

I have also been reading way too many dystopian novels lately. It is incredibly hard to impress me with them. Had I read this a few years ago I would have loved this book, but I didn’t read it a few years ago. I read it in 2014, and because of that I can’t give this higher than a three.

The  in this book could have been expanded upon. We got to see the maze, and the slang was a nice touch though overdone at times, but I never got a real sense of the maze. To me it was always just a maze with monsters in it. It wasn’t until I saw the movie that I stated to know what everything looked like, and that expanded upon the description in the book.

I understand that this book is supposed to have elements of mystery, but I wish the reader had learned a little more at the end. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I will say that the reader gets some answers, but it’s clear something else is really going on.

What readers should know: This book is fairly clean. There are some character deaths, mild violence, and fictional curse words, but other than that there aren’t many disclaimers.

Conclusion: Not a bad book, but it’s not for me. Others who aren’t tired with the market’s over-saturation of dystopian novels might like it more. Three out of five.

3 blue jays

The Spindlers Book Review

Title: The Spindlers

Author: Lauren Oliver

Release Date: October 2nd 2012

Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary Fantasy

Format: Audio Book

Synopsis: When Liza wakes up one morning to discover that her brother’s soul has been taken by the spider-like spindlers she knows that the only way to save him will be to descend Below. The only problem is that in a land so strange and vast as Below how can Liza possibly hope to rescue her brother’s soul in time?

Review: Before reading The Spindlers the only books I’d read by Lauren Oliver were the Delirium Trilogy. I was nervous about having expectations that might be too high for this book as it was middle grade and I had feared aspects from the author’s YA writing would not transfer, but thankfully Lauren Oliver did not disappoint. Another concern of mine was that the whole concept of “Below” sounded too much like the underland from Suzanne Collin’s The Underland Chronicles. Thankfully, the characters and the overall feel of Below differed enough that the two settings ended up feeling separate and not at all like copies of one another. This book was reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland with the whole concept of a young girl finding her way to a somewhat creepy and complex world she previously knew nothing about.

I enjoyed the whole concept of Below. The world Lauren Oliver crafted with all of the creatures living underground felt extremely complex and well thought out. There were  nids, troglods, scawgs, and of course spindlers. Additionally, there was also a talking, makeup wearing rat named Mirabella who was Liza’s constant companion on her quest for her brother Patrick.The relationship between siblings was portrayed extremely well through Liza and Patrick in Liza’s flashbacks of their interaction. Liza’s determination to save her brother was admirable and brought out her character.

As usual, Lauren Oliver’s prose was beautiful as illustrated by my favorite quotes from this story which I plan to share below. Unfortunatly, I found the overall story line to be predictable, but that’s not an unusual characteristic where the story lines of most middle grade novels are concerned. Overall though, this was a very fun read.

I listened to this in audio book form with my younger brothers who normally hate reading. They both found the story intriguing and to my surprise the youngest of the two (who falls into the recommended age range for this book) was soon asking for the audio book to play more and more. Listening to the book with them was very appropriate considering that this is a book about a girl on a quest to save her younger brother and I think that aspect made me have a greater appreciation for the story as a whole. Experiencing the book this way also supported the notion that this book would be found enjoyable by the intended audience.

Quotes: “Liza made a sudden decision. “I’ll be your friend,” she announced. she had trouble speaking the words but was glad once she had spoken them. She did not really want to be friends with an enormous rat of questionable sanity, but it seemed the right thing to say.”

“That was what her parents did not understand—and had never understood—about stories. Liza told herself stories as though she was weaving and knotting an endless rope. Then, no matter how dark or terrible the pit she found herself in, she could pull herself out, inch by inch and hand over hand, on the long rope of stories.”

Rating/Recommendation: I recommend this book to children between the ages of eight and twelve or anyone who simply cannot get enough of Lauren Oliver’s beautiful writing style. I give this a 4/5 rating for good prose, and creativity, but a predictable story line.

4 blue jays